How to promote cities effectively and lawfully

Polish cities and regions more and more often decide to promote themselves. Local and regional governments may hire advertising agencies for this purpose, but procurement of marketing services does not necessarily require organising a tender.

On 11 June 2010 the Forum on Marketing Services for Cities and Communes, organised by Brief for Poland, was held at Stary Browar in Poznań. The main purpose of the forum was to present effective tools and the latest practices to promote cities and regions, individual consultations with service providers specialising in effective communications by local governments, and presentation of the legal aspects of procuring marketing services for local governments.

It is not always feasible, or advisable, for a city to use its own staff to conduct promotional activity. In many cases it is better to hire an ad agency. But there is a great deal of suspicion of private firms among local government officials, and an unwillingness to organise costly and time-consuming tenders.

According to Sebastian Pietrzyk, a lawyer from Wardyński & Partners who took part in the forum: “It is true that when the value of marketing services ordered exceeds EUR 14,000, generally there is a duty to follow the provisions of the Public Procurement Law. However, in certain situations a procedure may be organised without a tender, including a single-source procurement. In any event, the city administration must carefully prepare the plan for promotion of the city.”

Promotional services in a broad sense may be included in the category of cultural services, which are regarded as “non-priority” services. When awarding public contracts for services of this type, the contracting authority may take a number of shortcuts. In the case of non-priority procurement, the new wording of Art. 5 of the Public Procurement Law allows for use of the procedure involving negotiations without an announcement, as well as a single-source procurement. The grounds for using these procedures, set forth in Public Procurement Law Art. 62(1) and Art. 67(1), respectively, have been extended to include “other justified instances,” which is not more closely defined beyond providing a list of examples of situations in which these approaches are particularly justified.

Thus awarding public contracts by way of negotiations without an announcement, or a single-source procurement, is justified if use of another procedure would violate the principle of purposeful, thrifty expenditure of public funds, or the principle of making expenditures in amounts and times arising under obligations incurred, or could result in a loss to public assets or prevent timely performance of tasks. The list of examples is fairly extensive, and, significantly, it is not exhaustive.

Even in a situation in which the contracting authority does not decide to follow one of these procedures, the Public Procurement Law allows procurement of services, including marketing services, using negotiations with an announcement, during which it is possible to negotiate specific terms and conditions for performing services for the contracting authority.

“The existing legal regulations enable effective and lawful achievement of the intended goals,” Pietrzyk added. “Most important is to have a proper understanding between the governmental side and the marketing side, and good cooperation between the promotional and marketing offices of the cities and private advertising agencies.”